Monguno, The Red Cap and Aso Rock jackals
By KEN UGBECHIE
The National Security Adviser, NSA, Babagana Monguno, a retired Major General, is not a happy man. His letter to Service Chiefs unwraps the seething anger of the man charged with the responsibility of coordinating the nation’s security apparatchik. Monguno is a fit and proper person to occupy the post of NSA. He’s your typical intelligence officer. Never garrulous, never showy. He operates from the shadow of his team, unobtrusive. Effective intelligence officers have this hallmark. They don’t throw themselves at the people. They’re self-effacing, taciturn and ghostly. It’s in their diffidence that their strength lies. Their taciturnity helps build a mystique around them. An effective intelligence officer is the one that rarely speaks. Monguno is a cut in this category.
For a man of his measured and cultured quietness, complaint is a scarce commodity. His type would just put their head down and get the job done. But not so for Monguno. The man manning the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, has been reduced to a whining, nitpicking supergrass rather than an effective spymaster. Monguno points to Abba Kyari, the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari as his nemesis. Abba Kyari, codenamed the Red Cap in government circle is the President’s main man.
He’s the man always spotting a red cap seen circling round the President at critical moments. Sometimes, he walks past the President, a gesture that has its own meaning; sometimes he appears to the President bearing a file tucked under his left armpit; at other times he only needs to stare at Mr. President with a wry smile to pass his message. Those close to the President will tell you that Mr. Kyari has the most effective password to the President’s crowded mind. The Presidency is such a helluva of an office and every president has a cluttered mind, tonnes of thoughts and activities engaging the President’s mind each seeking to be attended to. The Red Cap is said to be the most effective key that unlocks Buhari’s mind.
Kyari, a former banker, has become a powerful silhouette in the Buhari cabinet. His shadow is as powerful as the man himself. And he wields such power with Machiavellian mastery. Ministers, governors, top government officials and even members of the First Family have all fallen victim of his widening influence in Aso Rock. To make matters worse for those who think they can undermine the clout of Kyari, President Buhari at the beginning of his second term in office made it clear that ministers must go through Kyari to see him. Kyari as Chief of Staff is Buhari’s clearing house. The Red Cap has deployed such powers effectively.
Kyari is the most visible figure in the Aso Rock cabal. He has able allies in Mamman Daura, Ismaila Funtua, to some extent, and a few others. The cabal is real and they control the lever of power. Former Group Managing Director of NNPC and Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, was cut to size by the cabal. They frustrated him from access to Buhari, who doubles as President and Petroleum minister. To vent his anger, Kachikwu resorted to letter-writing in which he detailed a $25 billion joint venture scandal foisted on the nation by NNPC without his input and knowledge as Chairman of the Board. And for his poor whistle-blowing effort, he got the short shrift. He never made it back to the cabinet in spite of the reforms he was said to have brought to the oil and gas sector.
Then, there was Senator Shehu Sani’s famous social media post in which he alerted Nigerians to the existence of jackals and hyenas in Aso Rock in the days of the prolonged absence of Buhari from office due to illness. The Senator had posted that the “hyenas” and “jackals” were scheming for power based on the assumption that the “Lion King” (Buhari) would not return, while the “weaker animals” engaged in prayer for his return. Sani’s post considered by many to be apt attracted a riposte from First Lady, Aisha Buhari who retorted in fervid confirmation of the existence of the jackals and hyenas.
She wrote: “The hyenas and the jackals will soon be sent out of the kingdom. We strongly believe in the prayers and support of the weaker animals. Long live the weaker animals, long live Nigeria.” Senator Sani then representing Kaduna Central never made it back to the Senate. Another whistleblower takes the exit door.
Don’t forget that Aisha Buhari, the much-loved First Lady had to vent her anger against the cabal that has hijacked the Presidency and their cohorts in a leaked video in which she was seen raging at the audacity of Mamman Daura’s daughter who was said to have locked a particular door inside Aso Rock. Note that Mamman Daura is a nephew of President Buhari and this does not qualify him or his daughters as members of the First Family. If the First Lady could be so treated, who else couldn’t?
And now, it’s the turn of the NSA. Monguno’s letter, a subtle whistleblowing stunt, was clear and lucid. Kyari has taken over his job and he’s giving directives to service chiefs and holding meetings with them. And while this is going on, the security situation is deteriorating. Even the President said he was shocked at the bravura of the insurgents and the spread of insecurity.
The NSA wrote: “Chief of staff to the president is not a presiding head of security, neither is he sworn to an oath of defending the country.
“As such, unprofessional practices such as presiding over meetings with service chiefs and heads of security organisations as well as ambassadors and high commissioners to the exclusion of the NSA and/or supervising ministers are a violation of the Constitution and directly undermine the authority of Mr President.
“Such acts and continued meddlesomeness by chief of staff have not only ruptured our security and defence efforts, but have slowed down any meaningful gain that Mr. President has sought to achieve.”
The NSA chairs the Intelligence Community Committee, Joint Intelligence Board and General Security Appraisal Committee on behalf of the President and the supervising ministers of defence and security agencies. He’s the man who should be briefing Mr.President and constantly holding meetings with service chiefs, not Kyari. The very weighty allegation that Kyari presides over security meetings to the exclusion of President Buhari and the NSA clearly suggests that something unhealthy has befallen the nation’s security apparatchik. It also gives the lead as to why national security is sliding deeper into the alley of inefficiency. President Buhari should separate the office of CoS from security supervision. The meddlesomeness of Kyari in matters of national security has created bad blood rather than cohesion. The President should quickly correct this absurdity. National security is beyond buying military hardware. It’s not a business. It should be left in the hands of experts. Monguno should be given full complement of the powers of his office just so we can justifiably hold him responsible when things go wrong. But for blowing the whistle, I fear for Monguno. I fear the cabal may rally to shut him out, completely.